Healthcare: Inevitable or Impossible?

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Jonathan Bernstein says that healthcare can't fail:


At this point, the main basis I have for believing the health care reform bill will pass (here's my latest while I was at the Dish...for perspective, here's Jonathan clubber Chait's view, and here's Nate Silver's take) is that I would be shocked if Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, Nancy Pelosi, and Henry Waxman moved things to this stage without knowing they could get the votes. We're talking about some very skilled pols, here.

I can't think of any historical precedent for a failure this large in a House vote -- a major policy with the full support of the president and the majority party leadership that got this close without winning. The two most notable floor defeats that I remember are the first vote on TARP in fall 2008, and the vote (if I recall correctly) on the rule on the Bush deficit reduction package in 1990. In both cases, radical Republicans defected from a bipartisan agreement, in both cases between majority Democrats and a Republican president. And in both cases the policy eventually passed.

Meanwhile, Karlyn Bowman of the American Enterprise Institute takes her own look back at history:

"The public mood is generally sour," Bowman said. "I can't think of any other big piece of legislation that had so much opposition" and later passed, she said.

They're both right!  Where does that leave us?  At a defining moment in American legislative history . . . the Mothra v. Godzilla, irresistable force v. immovable object, rock v. hard place of policymaking.  It can't pass and it can't fail.  Yet it must do one or the other.

All I can say is, pass the popcorn.


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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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